27 DRESSES * * *
Cert 12A, 111 mins
It began as a child when she came to the rescue of a panicked bride. From that moment on Jane Nichols (Katherine Heigl) was hooked. Now, edging towards 30, she’s a bridesmaid junkie, taking it on herself to do all the organising for the big day.
So far, she’s racked up 27 different weddings, including a career best of dashing between two different ones on the same night, changing dresses in the back of the cab. Her own love life, though, would make Mary Poppins look like a tramp. She’s secretly in love with her dreamboat perfect boss, George (Edward Burns), who runs an "eco-friendly philanthropic business" and is, naturally, oblivious to her undeclared passion.
Jane continues to say nothing when opportunistic younger sister Tess (Malin Akerman) turns up out of the blue, flashes her eyes at George at a party and, having been a little less than truthful about sharing his dog-loving, vegetarian outlook on life, has him down on his knees proposing. Now, Jane finds herself having to plan the wedding she’d always hoped would be hers.
There’s further complications in the equally good looking shape of Kevin (James Marsden), a guest she bumped into on that double wedding evening. He’s as cynical about marriage as she is besotted, but they’re soon hanging out together, swapping witty banter and (it now apparently being obligatory for Marsden to burst into song) leading a drunken barroom singalong of Benny and the Jets. There might even be buds of romance blooming.
However, unbeknownst to Jane, Kevin actually pens the Commitments column to which she’s addicted and, having found her Filofax planner, has persuaded his editor to let him write a feature about this serial bridesmaid as a way out of his cake and confetti ghetto.
Will there be misunderstandings, discoveries, break-ups, and make-ups? Will cynic Kevin be shown to have a hidden romantic streak? Will Jane realise it’s time to look after her own happiness? Will there be a montage sequence as Heigl models all of those 27 dresses?
Of course there will, for frock’s sake.
Penned by The Devil Wears Prada’ screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna and directed by Step Up’s Anne Fletcher, it aspires to screwball froth with a twist of tartness, but if it doesn’t wear out its welcome neither does it lift itself beyond predictable contrived cuteness and the sense that you’ve seen it all before in everything from Four Weddings to Bridget Jones.
However, fresh from Knocked Up, Heigl is a comedic delight in what might be termed the Cameron Diaz role and, while Burns and Akerman (recycling her Heartbreak Kid turn) tend to hover around annoyingly, Marsden continues his Hairspray/Enchanted winning streak and Judy Greer once again proves her sassy supporting role worth as the obligatory wisecracking best friend on hand to, at one point quite literally, slap some sense into Jane’s taffeta and satin daydreams.
No fashion disaster then, but not one for the romcom classics wardrobe either.
DRILLBIT TAYLOR * * *
Cert 12A, 112 mins
Riffing on a 28-year-old plot set-up from The Bodyguard and based on an idea from the same decade by High School comedy maestro John Hughes (credited here under the pseudonym of Edmond Dantes), this is very much a second from the hitherto perfectly tooled Judd Apatow comedy factory.
Directed with no discernible flair by the ironically named Steven Brill whose past gems have included Mr Deeds and Without A Paddle, it's co-penned by regular Apatow collaborator Seth Rogen who's just simply recycled his trio of nerdy schoolkids from Superbad.
Thus you get fat Ryan (Troy Gentile), bespectacled skinny Wade (Nate Hartley looking spookily like a young Keifer Sutherland) and dorky Emmit (David Dorfman), all of them falling foul of big bully Filkins (Alex Frost, who deserves better) and his dumb sidekick (Josh Peck) on their first day at High School.
When the torment seems unlikely to let up, Wade hits on the idea of hiring themselves a bodyguard which, after the usual montage of unsuitable applicants, winds up being Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson), a martial-arts trained marine discharged for "unauthorised heroism".
Or so he claims. However, as is clear from the opening credits, he's actually a homeless bum who begs for change, showers naked on the beach, lives in a self-made shelter and hangs out with a bunch of fellow shysters.
His plan is to scam the kids, steal what he can, and get enough money for a one way ticket to Canada. Naturally, he starts to care about his young charges and actually makes an attempt to help them stand up for themselves. Equally naturally, their efforts backfire and Taylor's exposed for the fake he (partly) is.
In keeping with the rules of High School comedies, parents and teachers are generally clueless (which probably explains how 18-year-old Filkins can be in the same class as Wade) while the comedy generally revolves around a mix of humiliation and being slapped around.
Given such a thin, predictable plot, there's inevitably a lot of superfluous waffle and padding. This mostly involves Wade trying to summon the nerve to ask Asian classmate Brooke for a date or being needled by his macho stepfather, and Drillbit, now posing as a teacher without anyone questioning his credentials, being romanced by over-sexed 'colleague' Lisa (Leslie Mann).
Wilson's played this sort of fuzzy man-child part so often that, rather than making it look effortless, he now just seems to be simply not making the effort in the first place.
However, newcomer Hartley proves to have the sort of winning geeky charm you want to cheer on while Gentile can at least now look forward to a career of Jonah Hill's cast offs rather than simply playing the young Jack Black.
Low on laughs, nevertheless it does have some mildly amusing moments even if, like the audience, Brill never seems quite sure about what the joke actually is.
FOUR MINUTES * * *
Cert 15 115 mins - Subtitled
While not always successfully negotiating its way around the inherent melodrama, writer-director Chris Kraus’ German prison drama still packs a potent dramatic punch and two fiercely committed central performances
Virtually every day since 1944, the now 80-year-old Traude Kruger (Monica Bleibtreu) has driven to Luckau’s women’s prison to give piano lessons.
In all that time, she’s never had a student like Jenny von Loeben (Hannah Herzsprung). A former child prodigy, she’s been locked up for murder and, as seen from an opening scene where she coolly removes a pack of cigarettes from her hanging cellmate, is a bit of a cold character. Cold but with a hot temper, as Kruger discovers during auditions when she savagely attacks one of the guards.
Nonetheless, the spinster recognises the girl’s talent and, appealing to her love of playing, persuades her to become her pupil, on the proviso she keeps her violence in check.
Kruger sees Jenny as a strong contender for an upcoming prestigious competition, but there are those inside the prison walls determined to keep her from performing; a cruel vengeful guard who insists she remains handcuffed while practising, and a fellow inmate who burns her hands in her sleep.
At one point the ruthlessly single-minded Kruger too refuses to have nothing more to do with her. Until she learns the truth about her past and her conviction. At which point, she’s determined to see her take part in the competition. Whatever obstacles the prison may put in the way.
Kraus might be raking over familiar territory with the old cliché about music having the power to heal, liberate and redeem, but he also seeds the ground with complex character studies.
The emotionally damaged Jenny may have her secrets, but so too does her mentor who, as flashbacks reveal, was once secretly involved with an SS prisoner at Luckau. And whether it’s her single-minded love for the classics or a hint of lingering Nazi racism, the pair constantly clash over the "Negro music" that Jenny loves.
Neither woman is particularly likeable, but an unsentimental screenplay and intense performances ensure they are sympathetic, both incarcerated in their own emotional prisons. The finale might finally succumb to melodrama as the tension mounts with Jenny waiting to play her piece as the police move in. But when she finally explodes across the keyboard with an outpouring of fury and passion that melds Schumann and that "Negro music", the force of the catharsis is impossible to resist.
THE HOTTIE AND THE NOTTIE * *
Cert 12A, 91 mins
Here's a surprise for those who reckoned airhead heiress Paris Hilton actually played the wax in House of Wax or that her acting chops only extended to home video sex romps.
This vanity project sees her display incredible range. In some scenes she leans her head to the left. In others she actually leans it to the right!
Originally due before the tabloid tottie got banged up for traffic offences, it's taken longer to get a release than she did. But, seriously, it's not as bad as you might assume. Not good. But not terrible.
A lame copy of the Farrelly blueprint, it's yet another ugly duckling tale about inner beauty. Dumped by his latest girlfriend, geeky loser Nate (Joel David Moore) realises the reason he can't commit is because he's still in love with the girl he fell for in high school 20 years earlier.
So, he heads back to California to discover Cristabel (Hilton, coldly sexless) has turned into the hottest most wanted babe in town. However, while she's attracted to him and itchily horny, she's vowed to never date until her smart, self-aware but plug-ugly (bad teeth, bad skin, excess body hair, infected toe nail) childhood best friend June (Christine Lakin) gets laid too.
Helped by obnoxious blubbery friend Arno (Greg Wilson), desperate attempts to first pay and then hypnotise some schmuck (Adam Kulbersh) into doing the dirty prove a disaster. But then along comes a seemingly perfect dreamboat dentist (Johann Urb), who takes an inexplicable shine to June.
He fixes her teeth, she gets her wart removed and skin fixed and suddenly, wouldntchaknowit, she turns out to be quite the adorable fox and Nate finds himself feeling unexpectedly jealous and protective.
It remains inherently chauvinistic, trite, sluggish, poorly directed, devoid of basic credibility and relentlessly unfunny with Hilton, who acts as well as runs in slow-motion, unable to deliver even a decent fart gag. But, and it's a small but, Lakin is actually quite good, delivering a real performance from beneath fright wig and make-up, and the last reel is genuinely, touchingly sweet.
Small compensation, true, but given the choice between strapped to chair and forced to watch either this or Good Luck Chuck on an endless loop, this would win every time.